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2015-16 Walton Arts & Ideas Series explores The Identity of the South

August 24, 2015
By cnp
Posted in Community Events

What makes the South Southern?

That is the question that will be explored in the University of the Ozarks’ 2015-2016 Walton Arts & Ideas Series. The eight-event series begins on Sept. 16 with a presentation from Dr. Angie Maxwell, associate professor of Southern Studies at the University of Arkansas.

This year’s series, titled "The Identity of the South," also includes concerts by rockabilly musician Sleepy LaBeef and acoustic blues musician Lightnin’ Wells, a cooking presentation by regional chef Matt McClure, and lectures by renowned Southern authors Rick Bragg and Peter Guralnick.

"It’s a compelling and diverse lineup of events and speakers that examine this region’s intriguing blend of history, literature, food, music and pop culture," said U of O Provost Dr. Travis Feezell. "The South has its own unique culture and experiences and we’re excited about exploring and celebrating that culture through this series."

The 2015-15 Walton series begins on Wednesday, Sept. 16, with a presentation by Dr. Maxwell titled, "The South vs…Everything: The Evolution of Southern Identity." She is the author of "The Indicted South: Public Criticism, Southern Inferiority, and the Politics of Whiteness." Maxwell’s presentation will begin at 7 p.m. in the Rogers Conference Center.

The Walton Arts & Ideas Series is made possible through an endowment by the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. There is no charge for general admission to any of the events.

The complete series:

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Dr. Angie Maxwell
Sept. 16, 2015
7 p.m., Rogers Conference Center
Dr. Angie Maxwell is the Diane D. Blair Professor of Southern Studies and an assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. She received her Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Texas, Austin. Maxwell is the author of "The Indicted South: Public Criticism, Southern Inferiority, and the Politics of Whiteness,"  which was nominated for the Lillian Smith Book Award. She is also the co-editor of "Unlocking V. O. Key, Jr.: Southern Politics for the Twenty-first Century," and "The Ongoing Burden of Southern History: Politics and Identity in the Twenty-first Century South."  She also served as editor of the new edition of Ralph McGill’s "A Church, A School."  Maxwell’s articles have appeared in Southern Cultures, Presidential Studies Quarterly, the Journal of Black Studies, American Behavioral Scientist, Race and Social Problems, Social Science Quarterly, and The Southern Quarterly. She is currently working on a new book, entitled "The Long Southern Strategy," for Oxford University Press.

Lecia Brooks
Oct. 6, 2015
7 p.m., Rogers Conference Center
Lecia Brooks, whose presentation will be titled, "The State of Hate & Extremism in the U.S.," is the outreach director for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a Montgomery, Alabama, based civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. As outreach director, Brooks leads the organization’s efforts on key initiatives and social justice issues. She frequently gives presentations around the country to promote tolerance and diversity. She also serves as director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, an interpretive center designed to provide visitors to the Civil Rights Memorial with a deeper understanding of the civil rights movement. She joined the SPLC staff in 2004 as director of Mix It Up at Lunch Day, a Teaching Tolerance program designed to help break down racial, cultural and social barriers in schools. Previously, she worked for 12 years in a number of capacities for the National Conference for Community and Justice in its Los Angeles office. She is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Aj Smith and Marjorie Williams-Smith
Oct. 12-13, 2015
7 p.m., Oct. 12, Walton Fine Arts Center, Exhibition and Meet the Artists Reception
7 p.m., Oct. 13, Rogers Conference Center, Presentation
Accomplished artists Aj Smith and Marjorie Williams-Smith are professors of art at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Aj, who earned a master of fine arts degree from Queens College in New York, is also a master printer in fine art printmaking. Marjorie earned a master’s degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y. Their artwork has been featured in exhibits and galleries throughout the United States. Faces of the Delta/Place of the Delta is an on-going project to record cultural vignettes and visual motifs of a particular segment of the American lifestyle. Both Aj and Marjorie use silverpoint, large-scale graphite pencil, and watercolor drawings. Aj’s artwork captures particular individuals considered to be "ordinary folk who represent the salt-of-the-earth." Subjects of his drawings live in relatively remote rural locations in the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta regions. Marjorie’s artwork primarily focuses on flowers in their dry state. "The flower is fragile in its dried state but I am able to clearly see this form as if frozen in time. It also becomes a metaphor for spiritual reflection."

Sleepy LaBeef
Nov. 12, 2015
7 p.m., Walton Fine Arts Center
Sleepy LaBeef is the ultimate rockabilly survivor. As he approaches his eighth decade as a musician, his live performances still retain the same power they had in the years when he was among the music’s pioneers. Born Thomas Paulsey LaBeff in Smackover, Ark., the 6-foot-7 singer has heavily lidded eyes which make him appear half-asleep, hence his nickname. He was raised on a melon farm and grew up listening to both country and blues music. LaBeef moved to Houston at age 18, working at several odd jobs before beginning to sing gospel music on local radio shows. Soon he was working with a band of his own at local bars, and he appeared on the Houston Jamboree and Louisiana Hayride radio programs. The new rockabilly style fit his blazing voice perfectly, and in the late 1950s he recorded about a dozen sides in that style for various labels. His first single, "I’m Through," was released in 1957 on the Starday label. LaBeef moved to Nashville in 1964 and soon was signed to Columbia Records. In the 1960s he recorded mostly straight country music, before reconnecting with his rockabilly roots in the 1970s. With his booming vocals and slashing guitar, LaBeef has been a favorite among country, blues and rockabilly fans for more than 50 years.

Matt McClure
Dec. 2, 2015
7 p.m., Rogers Conference Center
Matt McClure, the executive chef at The Hive restaurant in Bentonville, Ark., will present a cooking demonstration titled, "Foods of the South." Born and raised in Little Rock, McClure grew up hunting and fishing and his grandmother’s cooking ignited his passion for food. After studying at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, he settled in Boston working at a number of restaurants including Troquet, Harvest and No. 9 Park under the direction of Barbara Lynch. After years in Boston, McClure was eager to get back to his home state to reconnect with the ingredients and foodways of his childhood. He returned to Little Rock where he worked under Lee Richardson at Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel, developing strong relationships with local farmers and producers and rediscovering the agricultural resources of his home state. In 2012, McClure joined the opening team of The Hive, located at the 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville. At The Hive, Matt showcases the refined, country cuisine of the High South, focusing on the local ingredients of Northwest Arkansas and the region’s traditional methods of cooking. Matt was a James Beard Award semi-finalist for the "Best Chef: South" award in both 2014 and 2015, and was awarded Food & Wine Magazine’s "The People’s Best New Chef" award for the Midwest in 2015.

Lightnin’ Wells
Feb. 17, 2016
7 p.m., Walton Fine Arts Center
Mike "Lightnin’" Wells breathes new life into the vintage tunes of the 1920s and Depression era America by employing various appropriate stringed instruments in a dynamic style which he has developed in more than 30 years of performing experience. Raised in eastern North Carolina, Wells learned to play harmonica as a young child and taught himself to play the guitar as he developed a strong interest in traditional blues and folk music. His many years of public performance began in Chapel Hill, N.C. in the early 1970s. During the following decades he has presented his brand of acoustic blues throughout North Carolina, the United States and Europe. With his experience, knowledge and well-honed performance skills, Lightnin’ Wells has established himself at the forefront of the traditional blues revival. His musical style is personal and energetic yet remains true to the original root form. His goal is to entertain and educate using a variety of sources, influences and techniques to express his dedication, respect and pleasure in presenting this unique American art form. Wrote one recent reviewer: "Whether you look to performers for inspiration, education, virtuosity, or sheer entertainment, Lightnin’ Wells delivers all the above, every single time."

Rick Bragg
March 3, 2016
7 p.m., Rogers Conference Center
Rick Bragg is the author of several critically acclaimed and best-selling books, including, "All Over but the Shoutin’," "Ava’s Man," "The Prince of Frogtown," and "Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story." A native Alabamian, Bragg says he learned to tell stories by listening to the masters, the people of the foothills of the Appalachians. "All Over but the Shoutin,’ " was Bragg’s first book, the story of his mother who devoted her life to making a better life for her three sons. Bragg’s books have become anthems in his native South, honoring the poor and working people, and have struck a chord with readers everywhere. During his career, Bragg worked at several newspapers, including the Anniston Star, the Birmingham News and the St. Petersburg Times, before joining The New York Times in 1994. As a national correspondent for the Times, Bragg won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, for which the committee cited his elegantly written stories about contemporary America. Bragg’s 2009 book, "The Most They Ever Had," is an eloquent tale of an Alabama cotton mill community, which led The New York Times Book Review to state, "It is hard to think of a writer who reminds us more forcefully and wonderfully of what people and families are all about."

Peter Guralnick
April 7, 2016
7 p.m., Rogers Conference Center
Peter Guralnick has been called "a national resource" by critic Nat Hentoff for work that has argued passionately and persuasively for the vitality of this country’s intertwined black and white musical traditions. His books include the prize-winning two-volume biography of Elvis Presley, "Last Train to Memphis" and "Careless Love." He won a Grammy for his liner notes for "Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club," and wrote and co-produced the documentary "Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll," as well as writing the scripts for the Grammy-winning documentary "Sam Cooke/Legend" and Martin Scorsese’s blues documentary "Feel Like Going Home." He teaches Creative Writing at Vanderbilt, where he is Writer in Residence, and is a recent inductee in the Blues Hall of Fame. His most recently published book, "Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke," was hailed as "monumental, panoramic, an epic tale told against a backdrop of brilliant, shimmering music, intense personal melodrama, and vast social changes." His comprehensive and long-awaited biography of Sam Phillips, "Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll," will be published in November of this year.